I grew up in New Jersey, and moved to North Carolina when I was 26. There are many things about the South that are vastly different from what I grew up with. Here are just a few.
1. Everything is slower, except the traffic. People talk slower, walk slower, conduct business slower. But there is so much less congestion on the roads that traffic generally moves pretty well.
2. A ‘toboggan’ is a hat, not a snow conveyance. See pictures for comparison.
3. Country Ham. Do not ever confuse this with Taylor Ham. The former is very Southern, very salty, and very popular as a breakfast meat, generally served on a biscuit. The latter is seldom found outside of New Jersey, and is generally served on a hard roll with egg and cheese.
4. Snow Days. Here in the South, it is customary to close schools, churches and daycare centers if the weatherman says it might snow tomorrow. I kid you not. Snowfall in excess of 4″ inches is considered a major storm. I have seen as much as a foot of snow on the ground here; everything shut down for a week. I mean EVERYTHING. No mail. No banks. No work. No school. I understand that it is not economically feasible for us to have the kind of snow removal equipment that is mandatory up North, but it was quite a culture shock the first couple years I was here. I can remember sitting in school watching the snow pile up. They didn’t even CONSIDER closing until there was at least 6 – 8 inches on the ground. Also, at the first hint of Southern snow, your presence is required at the local grocery store to purchase bread and toilet paper. It’s a rule.
5. Clothing. Growing up, ‘school shopping’ meant buying bulky sweaters, a new coat, wool pants, and the like. Here, it’s shorts and tank tops. Up north by mid-September you usually needed a light jacket to wait for the bus in the morning. The first year I was here, I made the mistake of packing away my summer clothes over Labor Day Weekend. Ha! It is not at all unusual to still being wearing shorts well into October. Last year, we went to the beach in October, and went swimming! I’ve attended New Year’s Eve parties that were held outside.
6. Barbeque. Up North, ‘barbeque’ is an event held in the back yard, where you cook hot dogs, hamburgers, or maybe a steak. In the South, ‘barbeque’ is a dish made by slow roasting pork (I understand in Texas, it’s beef) in an outdoor oven, seasoned with various sauces or dry rubs. The sauce or rub depends on your particular region, and can be tomato-based or vinegar based. A Pig-Pickin’ is a backyard gathering where they serve barbeque made from a whole or half pig which has been cooked overnight and painstakingly sauced and coddled by the chef. Generally, this is accompanied by coleslaw, watermelon, and a keg (or two!) of beer. I went to a wedding last month which was followed by a pig pickin’. The picture below is my boss at the last pig-pickin’ we hosted, in 2007. Time to have another one (in the fall, when it cools off!)
7. Chiggers. Now there’s a scourge that brings to mind words you won’t hear in church. I never heard of chiggers until I moved south. You can’t see them. The larvae, which are only about 1/100th inch long, are mites that feed on cell tissues. They don’t suck blood, but, instead, bore holes in the skin and inject enzymes that dissolve cell tissues. They feed on this “soup” from the skin surface. They favor areas where clothing is tight, such as ankles, waistlines, the elastic around the legs of your underwear, use your imagination. Places that REALLY itch. Strong human immune reactions often force chiggers to leave within minutes, but of course, by then it’s too late. Their bites elicit swelling and intense itching that usually becomes noticeable about 4-8 hours after the attack. Then, you can expect five nights of misery. Knowing a chigger’s biology, it’s pointless to expect that showering upon return from the woods can stop an outbreak. By then, chiggers have done their dirty deeds and gone. For you at this point it’s simply a matter of survival. The books say not to scratch. That’s a good one! While it’s true that scratching will nearly always lead to secondary infections, scratching is impossible to resist. If you’re into power tools, a rotary wire brush on a Black & Decker might work!
8. Personal Property Taxes. This is not ‘Southern’, it’s just North Carolina. Here, you are required to pay taxes on personal property annually, just like you do on real estate. Taxable items include cars, boats, trailers, and even your dogs in some jurisdictions. Every year. This is in addition to what you pay to register or license them.
9. Friday night football. High School football games are held on Friday night, not on Saturday afternoon. Saturday afternoon is reserved for college football, which is generally televised. College football is very, very big here. Professional football, on the other hand, is only followed by relocated Yankees like me.
10. Language. We have different words for the same things, and the same words for different things (See ‘toboggan’, above). Also, words are pronounced differently. My New Jersey friends tell me I sound southern (I’ve been here for 26 years!), but my Southern friends have informed me that there are certain words that I pronounce ‘Jersey’ that will give me away every time. Coffee. Oil. Fire. Simple words, but my mouth just will not produce them with an acceptable Southern accent. Oil and fire have two syllables, not one. There is a ‘w’ in ‘kawfee’. The past tense of crank is cranked in New Jersey, not ‘crunk’. You mash potatoes up north. In the South, you cream potatoes and mash buttons. I have discarded ‘youse guys’ in favor of ‘ ya’ll ‘. It’s just easier, and gender neutral. ‘Pin’ and ‘pen’ are pronounced the same in the South, so you must precede them with a descriptive adjective so people know which you mean.